Select Committee on Social Security Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Kevin Russell, Occupational Welfare Officer, Institute of Welfare Officers

I am writing in my capacity as a practising Occupational Welfare Officer and member of the National Management Committee of the Institute of Welfare Officers (IWO). My professional body is based in Birmingham and the internationally acclaimed Professor Cary L. Cooper (BUPA Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the Manchester School of Management, UMIST, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) is our recently elected President. Prior to my own election I made numerous personal contributions to various Government consultation exercises in relation to social welfare and employment issues. I have attached copies of three letters (dated 19 July 1998, 20 July 1998 and 15 October 1998 respectively*) relevant to the work of your committee.

It is my contention that there is a fundamental flaw in the New Deal and other initiatives. The Department of Employment Personal Advisers cannot offer the same degree of ongoing support that members of the IWO can provide to young people or long term unemployed adults returning to the workplace. Knowledge of the culture and requirements of the organisation, coupled with availability and being independent of union or personnel influence, are unique factors to Registered Welfare Officers in the administration of their duties. These, in turn, contribute to a conducive working environment in which training and study opportunities throughout an employee's career can only be enhanced. Surely, national recognition of this vital component can only give credence to the New Deal initiative which has cost the British taxpayer in excess of £5billion (i.e. figures quoted by Alistair Darling, MP (Social Security Secretary) in the Society section of The Guardian, dated 16 June 1999).

I believe that the foregoing highlights the importance of switching emphasis from Welfare to Work to Welfare at Work. The pending Employment Relations Bill 1999 places great importance on Fairness at Work. This legislation is underpinned by family friendly employment practices. A specific reference to these being authorised on a case by case basis by a registered welfare practitioner, independent of the personnel function and the unions, would be significant. It would demonstrate the Government's commitment to a consistent, impartial and credible application of such provision. Targeting resources (eg paid paternity leave in cases of genuine financial hardship) on the recommendation of a Welfare Officer would go some way to counter criticism of the unrealistic prospect of universal paid provision for all types of special leave for urgent domestic reasons.

The Select Committee's consideration of the points outlined in this communication is greatly appreciated. Recognition of the work and possible future role of the IWO at national level would assist our own efforts to create a Professional Register by the end of 1999. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any further information.

K. Russell, FIWO

Registered Welfare Officer

20 June 1999

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